1. Making Contact In This World And Beyond!

    So tonight last year, a pal, he calls me up and he says to me, “Ted,” he says, “Ted, you’ve got to see this [then] new program on TLC – ‘Long Island Medium,’ it’s called. A more lively and compelling show you’re unlikely to see!”*
    *Until “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” debuted ten months later.

    Like you, I’m fascinated with the bizarre and the unexplained, the weird and the eerie. I just can’t get enough of all that, despite already spending half my time in thrift stores and the other half in dollar stores.

    As you know, it’s just over three four years this month that I lost Marni to chronic inner thigh chafing. (My God, I begged her not to wear wide wale corduroy – the not-so-silent killer.) A day hasn’t gone by when I haven’t wanted to talk to her again, if only for a moment – long enough to find out where the hell she put my goddamn flat-jaw Vise-Grips. (She used to straighten her hair with them.)

    Anyway, while said pal and I passed the time of day on the phone, I divided my attention precisely in half and the part that wasn’t distractedly muttering “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Oh. Uh-huh. I see. Mm. Okay. Mm-hmm.” was busy dicking around on the internet looking for more details on this show. Could this “Long Island Medium” be for real? Could she, at last, put me back in touch with the ol’ Marnster?

    What I discovered was startling:  I found a short article on a website called “Channel Guide Magazine,” where the writer describes her experience speaking with the star of Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo.

    Isn’t that freaky?!

    I guess I should be more specific. The puff-piece article itself wasn’t all that startling. What was astonishing was that of the (then) 90+ comments below it, over 70 of them were directed to Caputo herself, as though she has anything to do with the website!

    Inexplicably, scores of people somehow decided that posting a message below an article about the Long Island Medium was the best way to get in touch with her.

    Once someone over at the “Channel Guide Magazine” website saw what was happening, a link labeled “Information on contacting Theresa Caputo” was added below the article. Click on the link and you’ll read:

    Below this bit of helpful information…? Well over six thousand comments, the most recent one as of this writing, posted around 3:30 p.m., Friday October 19, 2012. Judging by the sampling I looked at, they’ve been coming in steadily every single day. Nearly all of them completely ignore the information above, and yes, address Caputo directly in the comments section.

    By the way, Channel Guide’s tagline is “Watch Smarter!” I guess it’s good it doesn’t reference reading comprehension.

    Many of the 6,795 messages are pretty sad. You’d have to be a complete heartless bastard not to feel for some of these people who are desperate for specific closure, real or manufactured, regarding someone who died. (And believe it or not, I’m not a complete heartless bastard.)

    But mostly, it’s a fascinating contrast of communicative abilities that are light-years apart. On one extreme, we have a woman supposedly gifted with the remarkable capability to contact the dead. And on the other: thousands of her fans who are clearly in way over their heads just getting to the right website to send an electronic message to her.

    As for me, I’m not about to get in line behind 6,800 people and wait two years for an audience with the psychic. I’ll avoid all of this nonsense and use Marni’s life insurance money to buy a pair a new pair of Vice Grips. I don’t need Theresa to tell me she’d have wanted it that way.

    Posted by on October 19, 2012, 4:15 PM.

  2. What’s Bueno: Tasteless Unlicensed Michael Jackson Halloween Decor!

    SURE, you could do your Michael Jackson-themed Halloween shopping at one of those overpriced and seasonal Halloween stores where packaging for Michael Jackson wigs feature an unsurprising non-African-American model…

    Oh, how nice that Adam Lambert fellow is still getting work.
    And he gets to tell friends “I’m working on a Michael Jackson project!”

    Yes, you could buy officially-licensed (and expensive!) MJ stuff there…

    But instead, why not head to your local 99¢ Only Store where this bony gentleman might greet you over over the registers at the entrance?

    He’s available in the Halloween aisle for sale, too! For 99¢ Only!

    Can we get a closeup of his head?

    Awright, who’s the comedian?! The head of the decoration! Sheesh!

    There we go.

    And here’s the whole thing, as seen on the package itself:

    Tasteless? Definitely.

    Worth a chuckle?  Hell, it’s worth 99¢ Only and a chuckle!

    And on the positive side, since it’s unlicensed, the Jackson family won’t further descend into warfare over the profits.

    Posted by on October 15, 2012, 1:57 PM.

  3. New ‘Peanuts’ Feature Film Announced!

    Awesome!  I can’t wait!  If it’s only half as good as 1980’s cinematic masterpiece “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!),” it’ll be well worth the wait!

    “We know how dedicated, how fanatical these Peanuts fans are. If you…take [the characters] in the wrong place…you’re going to hear about it,” says Craig Schulz, son of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. “All I can do is…be as true to my dad’s work as I can…and I believe the rest of the family is really dedicated to that.”

    Excellent! I’m glad all the Schulzes are serious about keeping ol’ Sparky’s legacy intact and the characters in line with their father’s vision of them.

    I’m so excited about the news that this weekend I’m going to put on my favorite Snoopy drinking shirt, hit the bars, and celebrate!

    Posted by on October 10, 2012, 10:17 AM.

  4. I Hold In My Hand The Last Envelope!

    Skeleton…Garland.

    What’s in the crypt of the star of “The Wizard of Oz”?

    Posted by on October 8, 2012, 2:27 AM.

  5. The History of Television Syndication, Part II

    YESTERDAY, we discussed how in the past when various television programs were syndicated, often the networks would change the show’s title slightly so viewers could easily distinguish between those episodes they’d seen before and first-run episodes.

    Otherwise, a viewer might have tuned in during lunchtime and seen that episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy and Ethel get jobs in the candy factory, and that same night, watched the one where they build the barbeque; and thus be thrown into such a state of confusion and panic, he might be compelled to go out and shoot up a green stamps redemption center. By airing the reruns under the new title “The Ricardos of New York, Hollywood for a While, Europe For A Few Weeks and Eventually Westport, Connecticut” however, the potential for bloodshed diminished significantly.

    Flipping to the TV listings sections in that damp, soiled heap of 40+ year old newspapers Nana Parsnips calls her bed, I found a handful of actual examples.

    An example comparing both the original network title and the syndicated title of a popular television program:

    The original was broadcast Saturday nights at 10 / 9 central following “Love Boat” on ABC. The syndicated version aired weekdays following “General Hospital” over most of these ABC stations. Both featured frequent appearances by Gary Burghoff and Barbi Benton.

    “That’s all fine and good,” I hear you say. “We get it, we get it! Jesus, we get it! They changed the damned names. But what of our proud American television shows that were syndicated in other countries?”

    It seems like a perfectly stupid question of course – that is, until you realize that the Hanna-Barbera animated sitcom “Top Cat” was known as “Boss Cat” in England. (Apparently “Top Cat” is Cockney rhyming slang for “hedgehog penis” was the name of a popular brand of British cat food  – incidentally, virtually indistinguishable from British human food.)

    Above: Something I found on Wikipedia so my attorney says not to knock myself out trying to properly credit the image.

    Anyway, it got me to thinking: “What other title changes had occurred among our beloved television programs once they were syndicated ’round the world?” So I did some research and discovered that even in the best kind of countries – English-speaking countries, when television programs are syndicated, they often air under a different title.

    Of the shows above airing in England, the name changes were made due to already extant Cockney rhyming slang terms that made the original titles obscene to a proper British audience. In all other countries, however, the new titles were necessary as the series’ original names were already in use as brands of cat food.

    Of course the same show could very well be titled different things if syndicated in multiple countries. Take for instance the case of this sitcom from the early 1970s:

    Clockwise from upper left: Original title, syndicated title as it appeared in the UK, Japanese syndicated title (“Misesu Gojira,” literally “Mrs. Godzilla,”) and finally, Cyrillic titles from Russian syndication of show, roughly translated as “Petite Sexy Waif.”

    Other countries put their own take on various shows unique to their culture or circumstances. In Mexico, “The Brady Bunch” is known as “La Familia Pequeña.” In the Vatican, the Pope enjoys “The Flying Nun” under the title “I Can’t Believe Paul VI Got Screen Gems To Pay Us $6 Million To Put Our Seal of Approval On This Piece of Crap” and “Mr. Ed” as “Satan Horse.” In the late 1960s, then-USSR retitled “Lost in Space” as “The Heroic Adventures of Brave Dr. Zachary Smith, Secret Agent” and later simply as “Stupid American Cosmonauts.” And in France, “The Odd Couple” has been rebranded as “Felix Loves Oscar.”

    We’ve heard time and time again how the rest of the world loves American culture. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that some countries with whom we have strained diplomatic relations still crave our television shows – but also use them as tools of propaganda, as well as to entertain:

    Some might argue that syndicating such shows helps to foster dangerous anti-American sentiment, and while this may indeed be the case, it’s important to remember that this is Hollywood, brother, and there’s money to be made.

    In many cases, however, those who purchased the rights to broadcast quality American-produced television shows in their countries spent enormous licensing fees to do so, which often resulted in little money left over to be spent on competent translation of dialogue and plot. It’s therefore not unusual for programs airing in different countries to have a vastly different feel than what we remember seeing here in America, evident by their foreign titles alone:

    Television history is filled with fascinating facts and tidbits, be it juicy behind-the-scenes stories, tedious canonical episodic data, or, as you can see, exciting information about marketing and syndication.

    So perhaps the next time you catch an episode of, say, “Bewitched” on TV Land, you’ll enjoy it even more, knowing that throughout the last forty-five years and across numerous parts of the world, it’s been known variously as “Bewitched & Friends” (ABC weekday mornings, 1967-1969) “Stevens of McMann & Tate” (ABC weekday afternoons, 1970-1972), “The Adventures of Samantha” (WOR-TV, Secaucus, NJ, evenings at 6:00, 1975-1979), “Triflingly Amusing Yankee Witch” (UK, 1980s), and “Magical American Whorebeast” (Iran, current).

    Posted by on September 25, 2012, 1:56 PM.

  6. The History of Television Syndication, Part I!

    HAD I SEEN the Emmys last night it would have reminded me again of one of the greats of the small screen we recently lost – Andy Griffith. As a kid I watched “The Andy Griffith Show” at night and then tuned in for what I presumed was the same show during the day. Yet the daytime version was called “Andy of Mayberry.” I remember, too, back then, poring over the TV Guide, reading the names of other shows that seemed familiar, but just weren’t quite right.

    Later I learned that the networks changed the titles to distinguish first run episodes from reruns. This makes perfect sense – most people back then were incredibly stupid and would have become confused and disoriented had they tuned in at, say, ten-thirty in the morning and seen a program by the same name with the same actors playing the same characters as one broadcast at nine at night. Those in charge were right to rename the shows; in doing so they evidently prevented widespread panic, a national economic meltdown and, likely, enormous loss of life.

    Today, the practice is long gone – we’ve become more sophisticated as a viewing audience. So if, God willing, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” reaches that magic number of episodes needed for syndication, we can watch it under the same name during the day, between “The $25,000 Pyramid” and “Card Sharks.”

    Just for posterity, I’ve done some research and compiled a list – by no means complete! – of some popular shows and what you might remember having known them as when they were first syndicated.

    Above: A screen grab from the opening titles of the rarely seen, half-hour syndicated version “Star Trek,” retitled “Kirk & Friends,” which aired weekdays on NBC between “Concentration” and “The Pat Boone Show” in 1967.

    Oh look, I found some more!

    Some of them may seem a little awkward, but again, at the time, networks felt this was necessary to avoid confusion.

    Above: Screen grab from syndicated “Brady Bunch,” retitled “Alice’s Gang.” Original title is black with white outline, while syndicated title is all white. Ironically, Ann B. Davis, who played the titular Alice, appears on-screen only after the title disappears, due to her location in center square.

    More?  As you wish.

    Above: “Friends” syndicated title, briefly used when the series was initially syndicated in 2001 before it was decided that it was unnecessary and looked like something some jackass did by adding a line of text to a paused YouTube video. “Friends” was the last show to employ the “different syndicated title” practice before it was abandoned industry-wide, though likely not abandoned on this website where it had immediately been recognized as “an easy way of coming up with quick content.”

    I’ve always been something of a student – and fan – of television history and discovering such little-known but admittedly fascinating minutia of all aspects of the television industry’s proud legacy is something I enjoy sharing with you, my readers.

    Tomorrow: It gets wackier.

    Posted by on September 24, 2012, 2:11 PM.

  7. Clearance Sale, Eh?

    I guess they’re really trying to move that gorilla.

    Hey, consider yourself lucky that you’re probably among the five of my, what, six readers who are too young to get the reference.

    Posted by on September 14, 2012, 1:22 AM.

  8. Disgusting Pig!

    SO I just ran up to the Filipino market up the street to pick up some takeout…?

    Since I was there anyway, I just made a quick run around the store to see if there was anything else I needed.

    And I found something interesting.

    I wouldn’t have thought it, because I’d never heard of her before…? And I didn’t realize she was that famous…? But the star of that movie I rented last night apparently has her own line of foods!

    And this Ginger Juice is “instant” – unlike the actress Ginger Juice! I’m telling you, I had to fast-forward through titles, credits, and probably six or seven minutes of pointless setup and talking -talking-talking…!

    Enjoy this one, folks – by tomorrow I’ll probably have come to my senses and pulled it down.

    Posted by on August 11, 2012, 7:01 PM.

  9. For The Love Of God, Someone Get Kevin Smith To Please Slow Down!

    The man is clearly overworking himself!

    Like here, for instance: He evidently didn’t even have time to change back into his street clothes after leaving choir practice at church before being forced to rush over to some studio or other to tape this promo for his show “Spoilers” on Hulu! The man is a national treasure and he’s terribly over-scheduled!

    And here comes the hate mail.

    Posted by on July 26, 2012, 12:14 AM.

  10. My Comic-Con Schedule!

    IT’S that time again, gang! Comic-Con time!

    Here’s my schedule of all the events I’m either a part of or that I plan to passive-aggressively horn my way into! If you see me, be sure to come up and say hello, unless I’m talking to someone more famous or who can do more for my career than you, in which case, don’t you dare interrupt. Don’t you dare.

    As always, I’m happy to sign autographs – and still for my nominal fourteen dollar charge! (Exact change please.) Just let me know whose name you want me to sign and on what. My Will Eisner is all but indistinguishable from the real thing (especially now that I’m spelling it right) and my Bill Finger’s been getting some nice notices as well. Ask about my Siegel & Shuster “two-fer” discount!

    Above: Some of my most requested autographs.

    On with my schedule!

    Thursday July 12

    3:00-4:00 – Finding Last-Minute Lodgings in a Booked-Solid San Diego: A Candid Discussion
    I plan to leave the cesspool that is Los Angeles at exactly five-thirty a.m. Thursday morning so I can get down to the Con when everything starts. But it’s three a.m. as I write this, and I’ll likely oversleep until 1:30 in the afternoon. I have no place to stay (yet!) but I’ll be damned if I spend three nights in my car again for the sixth year in a row. Head on over to Room 212 in the Bushmiller Pavilion if you have any suggestions. If you’re a vendor, maybe we can strike a deal and I can help you construct a fort out of your comic book boxes and sleep right there in your booth, making sure none of the notoriously sticky-fingered security guards roaming the convention at night start pawing through your stacks of vintage Little Lulus.

    4:30-5:30 – The Mystery of the Whitman Comics 3-Pack

    Were Whitman comics ever sold individually in the 1970s? They were priced individually, yes – but is there an actual recorded instance of any issue sold singly, by itself, alone – and not in the little plastic bag where you got two decent funny animal ones and one piece of crap you never read like “Battle of the Planets” or, God forbid, “Star Trek” in the middle, which you couldn’t even see until you got home and ripped open the plastic? We’ll explore the evidence and talk to some guy who used to worked in a Rexall Drug Store back then. Room 218 (off of the Gottfredson Ballroom).

    Friday July 13

    11:00-12:00 – The “Stop Saying Zombie Apocalypse” Panel
    A heartfelt plea to the general public and the media  to stop using the phrase “the zombie apocalypse” immediately. Please note: People using the phrase “the zombie apocalypse” will not be admitted. Room 8.

    1:00-2:00 – Who Was Wealthier: Scrooge McDuck or Richie Rich? A Debate
    Obsessed Swedish “Barks-ologist” Mågnild Ljüngbørg and completist Richie Rich collector Franklin Todd go head to head to finally settle the question which has baffled young children under the age of ten for decades: Who has more money – the edema-suffering “Poor Little Rich Boy” in the Eton collar or the greedy, globe-trotting waterfowl from Duckburg? You won’t want to miss this one, especially if you just bought a hot dog or a slice of pizza and need a place to sit down and eat it. Room 27-C.

    Midnight-1:30am – The Golden Age of Animation’s Most Hilariously Racist Cartoons

    A Comic-Con Tradition! Join fellow animation enthusiasts as I screen clips from 37 vintage animated shorts from the 1920s through the late 1950s featuring the most patently offensive ethnic stereotypes you’ve ever seen! In the interest of time, I’ve edited them down to just the funny parts so they’re completely out of context. My promise: I will not waste time getting all Leonard Maltin on you by explaining these were “a product of their time.” The clip of the disgusting hairy Slovak peddler (“Toby the Pup in Prague,” Van Beuren Studios, 1930) is alone worth attending to see! Room 15.

    Saturday July 14

    1:00-2:30 – No, You’re Not The Next Mel Blanc: The “101 Bad Voices” and “101 Worse Voices” Panel

    We’ll be screening a bunch of highly annoying, often infuriating YouTube videos of those jackasses who honestly believe they can get work as voiceover talent based on the dozens of very slightly different voices, none of them good and most of them based not on the original source – but on someone else’s impression of the original (usually an SNL cast member). Roll your eyes and grumble with the rest of us as we hear the requisite Stewie, Scooby-Doo and Cartman again and again and again, plus numerous other animated characters none of which are currently in need of a new actor to portray them. Also: We’ll be speaking with a panel of animation voice casting directors who’ll discuss why they don’t tend to hire new talent based on clips on the internet where someone is only able to perform a rudimentary vocal facsimile of an actor or character’s one most famous catchphrase. Room 12A.

    4:00-6:00 – 60s Sitcom Powerhouses: Sheriff Taylor & Lt. McHale  

    What a treat! Set a spell and listen as I interview two of 1960s television’s biggest legends – Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine  -as they describe what it was like to star in a hit comedy of the early 1960s. Paul Henning Amphitheatre.  Canceled.

    3:00pm-4:30am – The People Versus Matt Groening
    Join us as we hijack 20th Century Fox’s “Simpsons” panel – where they intended to discuss the upcoming season – and instead force Matt Groening, Al Jean, various writers, producers and show-runners to watch every single goddamn episode of the last season, “A Clockwork Orange“-style, and subsequently force them to defend each recycled plot, every single unfunny joke and awful line in a kangaroo court that hopefully will result in a formal apology and mutual agreement to finally pull the goddamn plug on the show once and for all.

    4:00-5:30 – The Annual Jack Kirby Anecdotal Circle Jerk
    Come join friends and fans of the late, great Jack Kirby as we all attempt to outdo one another with a personal story or remembrance of the comic book legend, née God, who conveniently is no longer around to dispute any of what is said. The room fills up fast so be sure to get there early so you don’t miss a single one of the amazing stories you’ve heard ten times before! Room 23-B

    Sunday July 15

    10:30-12:00 – I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

    It was half a century ago this September 28th that a small portion of the nation first watched, with diminishing interest week by week, the probably pleasant and likely amusing adventures of Harry Dickens and Arch Fenster, until the last episode aired September 13th of the following year. I’ll be moderating neither John Astin (Dickens?) nor Marty Ingels (Fenster, I guess) but rather a panel of people not even tangentially involved in the television industry but who, like you, may have seen stills of the show or think the title at least sounds familiar. Also: What the next fifty years will bring, Dickens & Fenster-wise. Attendees are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster” character.  Room 18, Adam West Wing.

    5:00-6:00 – Nude-But-For-A-Mask Cosplay Parade at Black’s Beach

    Our only offsite event, not officially sanctioned by the Con, but you know if Stan Lee can negotiate the treacherous cliff, he’ll be there! Please, no Furries or Gamorrean Guards! Torrey Pines, San Diego.

    Okay, I think that’s it. See you there! Now to get some sleep, then hop in the car and head down the freeway before my attorney reads any of this.

    Posted by on July 12, 2012, 3:02 AM.

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